OMAHA, Neb. -- CSX Corp. reported a 2 percent dip in its third-quarter profit and revenue Tuesday because the railroad delivered fewer carloads of coal and crops, and fuel surcharge revenue declined.
CSX said the railroad's earnings per share actually increased 2 percent because it had fewer shares outstanding.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad made $455 million, or 44 cents per share. That's down from $464 million, or 43 cents per share in the same period a year ago.
Revenue fell 2 percent to $2.89 billion as the mix of goods it carried changed. Total volume was down about 1 percent.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected CSX to report earnings of 43 cents per share on $2.94 billion revenue.
Freight railroads' results are watched closely because the number of carloads of goods they carry offer clues about the health of the nation's economy. CSX is the first major railroad to report.
CSX said strong increases in shipments of export coal, automotive shipments and intermodal containers helped offset weak demand for coal from domestic utilities.
CSX hauled 29 percent less coal domestically in the quarter, but saw a 25 percent jump in its export coal tonnage. Overall, CSX hauled 36.3 million tons of coal in this year's quarter, down from 43.3 million tons in 2011.
"CSX continues to respond well to moderating economic conditions and challenges in our domestic coal business," said Michael Ward, CSX's chairman, president and CEO.
Coal accounted for 27 percent of CSX's revenue during the quarter.
Throughout 2012, coal demand has generally been weak because of last year's mild winter and some utilities' shift from burning coal to cheaper natural gas.
CSX officials said they still expect 2012 earnings to improve over last year. Through the first nine months of 2012, CSX reported $1.41 billion net income, or $1.36 per share. That's four percent higher than last year's $1.37 billion net income, or $1.24 per share.
CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., operates over 21,000 miles of track in 23 eastern states and two Canadian provinces. CSX plans to hold a conference call with investors Wednesday morning.
Union Pacific Corp., the biggest railroad in the U.S., will release its third-quarter results on Thursday.
CSX shares rose 45 cents to $21.90 in after-hours trading.
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CSX Corp.: www.csx.com